Take the recent example of Chennai 28: Second Innings in a Chennai multiplex. It ran on Friday with just 320 tickets for 12 pm show. Post positive talks, demand went up to 457 tickets for the 4 pm show, 620 tickets for evening show and 1,113 tickets for night show, which is almost four times the opening show ticket sales. Against the total sale of 2,510 tickets on Friday, 3,550 tickets were sold on Saturday and 3,952 tickets were sold on Sunday. This improvement was in just one complex! What does this indicate? That the word- of- mouth comments from the audience remains the biggest differentiator for a film.
This has happened several times in the past. Cult classics like Mullum Malarum, Aval Appadithan, Mouna Raagam, Sethu, Azhagi etc., did not have too many people coming in to watch the film initially. After good word- of- mouth spread around these films in two weeks’ time, they picked up and ran well. Today, one need not wait that long for a film to pick up, thanks to social media and the internet. If a film is good, improvement can be seen in the 2nd show itself and by the day’s end, the dramatic shift in audience patronage can be noticed, which ensures a very good weekend collection.
So, there is hope of audience patronage if we deliver a good film. The issue is what kind of ‘word- of- mouth’ spreads about a film? If it spreads as ‘class film’ or ‘onetime watch’, surely there will be interest to watch the film, but that will be from select theatre- going audience. Substantial interest in the film will be there only when word of mouth spreads as a ‘family or all class entertainer’.
Class films: When a film is narrated intelligently that can be understood mainly by educated audience, the word spreads as ‘class film’. In the same manner, when an intense theme is presented realistically, again the word spreads as ‘class film’. Though these films may be getting high praise from critics, the audience treat the films as ‘class’ category and only a select audience, which is interested in such films lands up in theatres. Hence, such films work mainly in multiplex- oriented cities and are called ‘A Centre’ films. '
Mass entertainers: These are usually made with top artistes and hence the fans of the artistes automatically patronise such films. In addition, the ordinary movie fans, who have a liking for such films also end up watching them. These films are usually rated by audience as ‘ pucca mass’ or ‘ paisa vasool ’ entertainers’ and their filmmakers do not bother much about logic and hence critics mostly pan such films. Yet, these films bring in huge opening week collection as they are patronised by fans and the common public who like such films. However, these movies do not get big support from intelligent or class audience, who dislike such crass mass films. These films are hence rated largely as ‘B and C Centre films’ with limited appeal in ‘A Centres’.
Mixed or divided talk films: These are a classic ‘stuck- in- the- middle’ type films. They do not get either ‘class’ or ‘mass’ talk but divided or mixed word- of -mouth. Some audience like them and some don’t. Their success is dependent on the time of release and any other positive aspect go
ing for the film, like a super hit song.
All class entertainers: Getting word- of- mouth publicity for a film as ‘all class entertainer’ is the best rating from audience as compared to the earlier three. These films are sensible and at the same time entertaining and hence all segments like children, youth, working class and family audiences like them. Hence, they achieve success in A, B and, C centers of trade. These films are also appreciated by critics as they offer entertainment without hurting their sensibilities. Recently, Chennai 28: Second Innings, earned just that tag.
— G. Dhananjayan, Film Producer, National Award Winning Author and Founder-Dean of BOFTA Film Institute in Chennai.